Published: Nov 29, 2010 00:33 Updated: Nov 29, 2010 00:33
WASHINGTON: US State Department documents released by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks provided candid views of foreign leaders and sensitive information on terrorism and nuclear proliferation, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
The documents show that Chinese government operatives have waged a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage targeting the United States and its allies, according to a review of the WikiLeaks documents published in the Times.
The newspaper reported details of a tense standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel, plans to reunite the Korean Peninsula after the North’s eventual collapse, bazaar-like bargaining over the repatriation of Guantanamo Bay detainees and a Chinese government bid to hack into Google.
The cables detail fresh suspicions about Afghan corruption and the US failure to prevent Syria from providing a massive stockpile of weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The WikiLeaks documents also show US Defense Secretary Robert Gates believes any military strike on Iran would only delay its pursuit of a nuclear weapon by one to three years, the Times reported on its website on Sunday.
The Pentagon immediately condemned WikiLeaks’ “reckless” dump of classified State Department documents and said it was taking steps to bolster security of US military networks.
“The (Defense) Department has undertaken a series of actions to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
The White House said the leak of the diplomatic cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders and may put at risk the lives of named individuals living “under oppressive regimes.” The pending documents release had been widely reported for more than a week and expected on Sunday.
The US government, which was informed in advance of the contents, has contacted governments around the world, including in Russia, Europe and the Middle East, to try to limit any damage. Sources familiar with the documents say they include corruption allegations against foreign leaders and governments.
The whistle-blower website’s chief Julian Assange said earlier Sunday the release of the US documents would cover “every major issue,” as governments braced for damaging revelations.
“Over this last month much of my energy and activities have been spent preparing for the upcoming release of a diplomatic history of the United States,” Assange said.
“Over 250,000 classified cables from US embassies all around the world, and we can see already in the past week or so that the United States has made movements to try to disarm the effect that this could have.”
WikiLeaks had reported earlier on Sunday that its website was under attack, but said later that media outlets would publish some of the classified documents it had released even if the group’s website crashed.
“El Pais, Le Monde, Speigel, Guardian & NYT will publish many US Embassy cables tonight, even if WikiLeaks goes down,” the website said in a Twitter posting an hour after it tweeted that its site was under attack.
The State Department had warned WikiLeaks that the expected release would endanger countless lives, jeopardize American military operations and hurt international cooperation on global security issues.
The department’s top lawyer urged WikiLeaks founder Assange in a letter on Saturday to keep classified documents off the website, remove records of them from its database and return any material to the US government.
WikiLeaks’ decision to release classified US diplomatic files endangers US diplomats, intelligence agents and democratic activists who seek America’s help, the White House said Sunday.
Shortly before the statement from presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs, several news organizations posted stories on the Internet based on the hundreds of thousands of classified State Department documents that WikiLeaks had made available to them.
Gibbs said the diplomatic documents, known as cables, contained candid and often incomplete information that didn’t express policy and didn’t influence decisions.
Still, Gibbs said, such cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders and could “deeply impact” US interests as well as those of allies and friends.
“To be clear, such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government,” he said. “These documents also may include named individuals who in many cases live and work under oppressive regimes and who are trying to create more open and free societies.” Gibbs said President Barack Obama supports open and accountable government, but the press secretary called the WikiLeaks action “reckless and dangerous” and counter to that goal.
“By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals,” Gibbs said. “We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.”
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